Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Research and Development growth in the right direction

New Zealand's R&D spending by sector, 2006-2012. From Statistics NZ
In this week's Hutt News the editorial seems to make the case (again) for R&D tax credits - as opposed to National's policy of expanding grants through the likes of MBIE and the Hutt Valley's Callaghan Innovation.

The editorial argues that private enterprise investment in R&D is relatively low in New Zealand, and this is harming New Zealand's economy long-term as our businesses aren't adding as much value to our exports as we could. This is a concern the government shares.

Through initiatives such as Callaghan Innovation and new forms of company incubators, business investment in R&D has greatly expanded. According to Statistics NZ's Survey of Research and Development, overall expenditure on R&D has grown by 23% since 2008 to $2.6 billion. Critically, private sector expenditure has grown by 31% over the same period to $1.2 billion.

This is an excellent trend in the right direction, but more needs to be done. We still lag behind other small economies in terms of the percentage of our GDP spent on R&D. Despite the recent growth we've experienced, our total spend is 1.27% of GDP, versus the OECD average of 2.38%. We're heading in the right direction but it is critical for New Zealand's future that we continue on this path.

Spending on R&D by sector, 2008 - 2012:

 $ million  2008 2010 2012 % change
 Private sector   $       913  $       971  $     1,193 31%
 Government   $       584  $       615  $       596 2%
 Universities   $       643  $       802  $       836 30%
 Total   $     2,140  $     2,388  $     2,625 23%

Monday, 29 September 2014

Waitangi National Trust charges for the Treaty Grounds

Newly elected Te Tai Tokerau MP Kelvin Davis thinks that the $15 fee for New Zealanders to visit the Treaty Grounds at Waitangi is "outrageous". I agree - like Te Papa, New Zealanders should be able to visit the Treaty grounds for free.

Overseas visitors pay $25 to visit. When my wife Jen and I visited the Treaty Grounds back in 2008, it was free for New Zealanders. We only had to show our drivers licenses to get in. From Saturday we would have to pay the $15. In its defence, the Trust that owns and operates the Treaty Grounds (the Waitangi National Trust) points out that it receives no government funding, and international tourist numbers have dropped as a result of the global financial crisis.

According to its 2013 annual report (from the Charities website), the Trust brought in $1.998m from ticket sales, tours and events at the grounds. There were small grants totaling $34,500 and interest and dividends of $427,000 for a total income of . That year, 100,000 people visited the grounds, 55% domestic and 45% international. The Trust made a loss of $298,835 for the 2013 year.

Extrapolating this out, assuming that the same number of people choose to visit the grounds regardless of the price, and that of the 55,000 domestic visitors at least half are adults, you'd net $412,500 in ticket sales at $15 a pop. The Trust would return to surplus with $114,000 to play with.

Grant Robertson and the Waitakere man

Labour leadership contender Grant Robertson states that he wants to be judged on his policies, not his sexuality. Fair enough - most Kiwis wouldn't care about his sexuality either. The oft asked rhetorical question "are we ready for a Gay Prime Minister?" - which the news media have asked us since the 2013 leadership contest - is really nonsense. The Waitakere man - the mythical creation of commentator Christ Trotter, the voting demographic who allegedly would take issue with Grant's sexuality - cares more about the pay in his pocket than the Prime Minister's sexuality.

In my view, Grant's main problem is his policies, not his sexuality. For the Waitakere man, who by Trotter's definition most likely owns his own small business (the "man with a white van"), policies such as a capital gains tax, increasing the minimum wage at a rate they can't afford to pay their staff, and compulsory variable KiwiSaver contributions are what make Grant (and Labour generally) an unattractive prospect.

Friday, 26 September 2014

If solar energy is booming, why does it need subsidies?

Solar uptake in New Zealand. Source
I discovered on the campaign trail that quite a lot of politics these days is simply picking a winning trend, crafting a policy that sounds like you're doing a lot to make that trend happen, then taking credit for what's already happened.

That's the Greens solar energy policies in a nutshell. The other day Gareth Hughes claimed "National eclipsed on solar energy", (ignoring the work done by the government in aid projects across the Pacific) pointing to a report recently by Otago University which shows that the take-up of small scale photovoltaic (PV) cell systems in New Zealand is up 330% in the last two years.

This is great news and a winning trend for New Zealand. The report notes that this increase is in absence of government subsidies for PV installations, which is what the Greens propose.

The report concludes:
This level of interest currently exists with no support from the Government via subsidies and feed - in tariffs, and mostly under business models that require a large upfront investment. New types of business model such as that currently being trialled by Vector may remove some significant barriers to entry and increase the level of interest in installing PV.
Vector is running a lease based system in Auckland, which apparently has strong uptake. Which begs the question: why does solar need subsidies? If uptake is to continue at this rate, will subsidies actually accelerate the trend or simply be pocketed by people who are going to install solar systems anyway? The report doesn't go into these questions, but it does finish with this note:
High levels of grid - connected PV would contribute to renewable generation and may require new approaches to the management of the electricity grid to ensure that New Zealanders continue to have access to safe, reliable, and affordable energy.
I know from friends working in the sector that this is in fact the biggest challenge we face with the introduction of solar energy. According to Transpower, New Zealand's electricity grid was not built to manage a lot of distributed generation of electricity - it was built to facilitate the transmission of electricity mainly from one area (the South Island's hydro stations) to another (north of the North Island, where 50% of New Zealanders now live). So accelerating growth in solar energy is likely to lead to further costs down the line for consumers.

Monday, 22 September 2014

Thank you!

My sincere thanks to everyone who supported myself and National at the general election. We're very pleased that National secured the party vote here in Rimutaka. It was a challenging campaign and one full of great experiences, debates and issues.

We know from the booth-by-booth analysis that we won across central Upper Hutt and the outlying suburbs, including Stokes Valley and Totara Park, both traditional Labour areas. Avalon and Manor Park were 50/50. However the southern booths remain a struggle.

I will remain engaged on the issues that matter to the people of Rimutaka, especially transport, economic development and local authority amalgamation. A number of people have asked if I will stand again - it's too early to say, as that's a decision for the local Rimutaka members of the National Party. If you want to be part of that decision in 2017, you'll need to keep your membership up to date. Please remember to renew!

Over the next three years we will continue to build the electorate organisation, membership and fighting funds for our campaign in 2017. But for now I can say that I'm proud to have represented the party and to have helped many of the residents of Rimutaka.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

The result

My sincere thanks to everyone who helped on our campaign for Rimutaka. Sadly, it wasn't to be on the electorate vote, but National did win the party vote once again, with 42% of the total votes cast.

Election Results -- Rimutaka

Electorate Number:44Final:Yes
Results Counted:58 of 58 (100.0%) Votes Counted:33,067
Less than 6 votes taken in Voting Places:0Special Votes:3,988
Leading Candidate:HIPKINS, Chris (LAB)Majority:5,831
Labour Party10,631HIPKINS, ChrisLAB17,333
National Party13,895HOLDEN, LewisNAT11,502
New Zealand First Party3,426HUNT, AaronNZF1,601
Conservative1,381LYNCH, Philip MichaelCNSP886
Green Party2,693RUTHVEN, SusanneGP1,437
ACT New Zealand115
Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party145
Democrats for Social Credit12
Focus New Zealand4
Internet MANA249
Māori Party128
NZ Independent Coalition18
The Civilian Party18
United Future110
Party Informals159Candidate Informals308

Friday, 19 September 2014

It's over to you now - two ticks National!

New Zealand has come through the GFC and the Christchurch earthquakes with a strong economy that is delivering more for New Zealanders and their families. We need another strong, stable National Government to keep turning that progress into more jobs and long term prosperity.

MMP elections are always close, even with the Opposition in disarray. Labour could still cobble together a government with the Greens, Dotcom, and New Zealand First. That would stall our economy and create economic chaos.

The only way to deliver another strong, stable National Government that will keep New Zealand moving in the right direction is to PARTY VOTE NATIONAL tomorrow.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Economy: growth staying strong

Stats NZ have released the latest GDP (the measure of the size of our economy) figures:
GDP growth for the year ended June 2014 was 3.5 percent. This is the highest annual growth since the September 2007 quarter.
The expenditure measure of GDP rose 0.5 percent in the June 2014 quarter. Domestic demand (spending and investment by New Zealanders) increased 2.2 percent, while exports fell and imports rose.
Interestingly, our current account deficit actually decreased.
The size of the economy (in current prices) was $229 billion for the year ended June 2014. GDP per capita was $51,190 for the same period.
It's very pleasing to see added value industries, such as software development, are expanding.

Monday, 15 September 2014

A stronger economy: Business Growth Agenda

A re-elected National Government will focus on these priorities over the next three years:
  1. Negotiate and sign Free Trade Agreements including Korea, Trans-Pacific Partnership, and the WTO Government Procurement Agreement so our exporters can compete on an equal footing in other economies and further lift our exports.
  2. Introduce and pass the Resource Management Act reform package to provide more certainty, timeliness, and cost-effectiveness in resource allocation decisions.
  3. Hold Kiwi expat Job Fairs in Brisbane, Sydney, and Melbourne to recruit skilled Kiwis for jobs back in New Zealand and help remove skills constraints for key sectors of the New Zealand economy.
  4. Deliver more skills relevant to industry by setting up three new ICT Graduate Schools across New Zealand and investing to lift the number of engineering graduates available to employers.
  5. Double the level of business R&D to 1 per cent of GDP by 2018 so that more of our innovative high-tech businesses succeed on the world stage.
  6. Lift the footprint of the Ultra-fast Broadband rollout from 75 per cent to 80 per cent of New Zealand and extend the Rural Broadband Initiative so that all parts of New Zealand have world-leading 21st Century broadband coverage.
  7. Complete the passage of the Employment Relations Bill to ensure flexible labour markets that create more jobs for Kiwis.
  8. Deliver Inland Revenue’s Business Transformation Project and simplify the tax system for (small and medium-sized businesses) so that New Zealand businesses spend less time calculating their tax and more time working on their business.
  9. Accelerate petroleum and minerals exploration through our new data acquisition programme so that we increase exploration further from the $1 billion spent last summer.
  10. Roll out the next stages of the Roads of National Significance and key regional roading projects so that we remove chokepoints and improve the resilience of New Zealand's core land transport system.
National understands that it is only by having a strong economy that we can lift opportunities and incomes for Kiwi families, and provide world-leading public services. See more of our plan this election here.
Our Business Growth Agenda, along with our strong economic management and responsible management of the Government’s finances, will help turn the gains of the last few years into a sustained long-term lift in New Zealand's prosperity.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Ambitious for New Zealand

National has always been ambitious for New Zealanders and confident about what we can achieve at home and on the world stage.
Come Saturday, New Zealand voters have an opportunity to build on the significant gains this country has made under National over the past six years, and keep heading in the right direction.
We are a Government with a track record of delivering for New Zealanders.
When we were first elected in 2008, New Zealand had been in recession for almost a year – well before the global financial crisis – and the Government faced never-ending deficits and debt rising into the future. Two years later, Christchurch was rocked by the first devastating earthquake.
Over the past six years, the John Key-led Government has earned the trust of New Zealanders by being clear about our plan for turning things around and delivering on our promises.
We supported the most vulnerable through the recession and set a path back to surplus this year.
We are helping New Zealand businesses become more competitive so they can create more jobs and lift incomes.
We are delivering better public services – educational achievement is rising, more New Zealanders are moving from welfare and into work, and the crime rate is the lowest for 35 years.
And we are continuing to help the people of Christchurch to rebuild their lives.
The next steps in our plan will work to lock in the gains of the last six years to create a long-term lift in New Zealand’s prosperity.
We will keep government spending under control, stay in surplus, and start reducing debt.
We will keep encouraging the investment and enterprise needed to create new jobs and increase incomes.
We will focus on rewarding New Zealanders’ hard work. We’ll do that by further reducing government ACC levies – the equivalent of a tax cut for households and businesses, and by reducing income taxes for lower and middle income earners in 2017, should fiscal conditions allow.
We will work for Kiwi families by investing in teacher quality, free doctors’ visits for under-13s, extending paid parental leave, and helping more Kiwis into their first home.
And we will work for local communities by continuing to support more Kiwis from welfare to work, shorten hospital waiting times, reduce crime, and invest in better roads, broadband, and public transport.
The alternative is changing course with risky, unproven policies that would stall the economy through five new taxes and more wasteful government spending.
This election the choice is stark. Your party vote for National will help keep New Zealand on the path to prosperity. A vote for any other party is a vote to take us in a different direction.
This Saturday, please give your party vote to National.

Monday, 8 September 2014

Seizing our opportunities

National’s clear economic plan and careful financial management is taking New Zealand in the right direction.
Our plan means our economy is growing. We’re creating new jobs and wages are rising. Families are doing better and we’re succeeding on the world stage. 
However, one or two years of good growth does not change the economic prosperity of a nation.  We need to stay on course to really lift our long-term economic performance, and see more New Zealanders in work, owning their own homes, getting the healthcare they need and the opportunities they want for their children.
The only way we can do that and grasp the many opportunities we have as a country is by having a strong, growing economy.
In this election, only National can credibly offer three more years of the strong and stable government that’s needed to keep the economy growing.  Our economic plan is straightforward and we’ve set out our priorities.
A re-elected National Government will return to surplus this year and stay there so we can reduce debt. Reducing government debt puts New Zealand in a better position to cope with any future economic shock or natural disaster.
We’ll cut ACC levies on households and businesses by around 30 per cent. That’s between $700 million to $900 million a year – the equivalent of a tax cut.
And, so long as it’s affordable, we’ll start modestly reducing income taxes for lower and middle income earners from 1 April 2017 because National believes in rewarding New Zealanders’ hard work and enterprise.
We’ll use any further financial headroom to get to our target of 20 per cent net debt to GDP sooner than 2020. Then we can resume contributions to the New Zealand Super Fund.
In addition, National will help to keep interest rates lower for longer by reducing government spending to below 30 per cent of GDP from 35 per cent in 2011. Our focus will remain relentlessly on targeting that spending where it delivers better results for New Zealand families.
New Zealanders have a stark choice this election. They can continue to support National and its clear economic plan that is working for New Zealand, delivering sustainable economic growth, and helping households get ahead
Or they can put all the gains and the growth in jobs and wages at risk by changing course. Under an unstable combination of Labour, the Greens, and Dotcom the economy would stall. They would introduce five new and unnecessary taxes and create a wave of wasteful government spending. They would undermine the confidence necessary for businesses to invest now for future growth and more, higher paying jobs.
National’s clear, straightforward plan will keep New Zealand moving in the right direction.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

SH58: NZTA's consultation

The Dominion Post reports:
...there was "significant" support for upgrading the State Highway 58 route over Haywards Hill rather than developing a Petone-Grenada road.
This was despite the topic of SH58 not technically being part of the consultation process.
This is much the same feedback I've heard while out on the campaign trail.